The Corner

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden Can’t Deter Anyone

President Joe Biden delivers remarks after touring the General Motors ‘Factory ZERO’ electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit, Mich., November 17, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Apparently, U.S. allies are noticing the growing gap between Joe Biden’s “America is back!” rallying cry, and the actions of his administration.

From Afghanistan to the Jan. 6 insurrection to congressional paralysis, attendees expressed their fears and doubts about the health of American democracy and questioned Washington’s commitments to countering Beijing or Moscow. It turned the 2021 Halifax International Security Forum into less of a celebration of President Joe Biden’s agenda and more of a global intervention for a nation in crisis.

As we look around the world, it may not just be American allies who see the Biden administration offering a lot of tough and confident talk, but not much tough and confident action. The administration wants to deter a lot of hostile states from taking more aggressive steps . . . with very limited results so far.

Bloomberg: “Intelligence has been conveyed to some NATO members over the past week to back up U.S. concerns about Putin’s possible intentions and an increasingly frantic diplomatic effort to deter him from any incursion [into Ukraine], with European leaders engaging directly with the Russian president. The diplomacy is informed by an American assessment that Putin could be weighing an invasion early next year as his troops again mass near the border.”

U.S. News and World Report:

The People’s Liberation Army, China’s name for its military, is capable of landing at least 25,000 troops on [Taiwan] to establish an initial beachhead, according to the newly released annual report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressionally appointed agency designed to provide specific and nonpartisan national security and economic advice to Congress and the president.

Further complicating existing U.S. efforts to deter China from seizing control of Taiwan by force are new tactics the PLA has employed that offset some of the U.S. military’s potency in the region. The report documents that the Chinese military has trained with barges, ferries and other civilian vessels to transport military troops across the Taiwan Straits or elsewhere — in addition to more conventional military transports.

“Given these deployments, it has become less certain that U.S. conventional military forces alone will continue to deter China’s leaders from initiating an attack on Taiwan,” the report concludes.

The Financial Times:

Experts at DARPA, the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, remain unsure how China managed to fire countermeasures from a vehicle travelling at hypersonic speeds, said the people familiar with details of the demonstration.

The New York Times:

American intelligence officials and international inspectors say the Iranians have quickly gotten the facilities back online — often installing newer machines that can enrich uranium at a far more rapid pace. When a plant that made key centrifuge parts suffered what looked like a crippling explosion in late spring — destroying much of the parts inventory and the cameras and sensors installed by international inspectors — production resumed by late summer.

One senior American official wryly called it Tehran’s Build Back Better plan.

And over in Afghanistan:

The Taliban is hoping to expand its drug income as much as possible. Since its takeover, prices of opium in Afghanistan have more than tripled. In India — which is situated between the world’s two main opium-producing centres, the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran “Golden Crescent” and the Myanmar-Thailand-Lao “Golden Triangle” — seizures of Afghan-origin heroin have increased.

As the UN Office on Drugs and Crime warns, the economic crisis Afghanistan currently faces will only increase the appeal of illicit crop cultivation for local farmers.

The problem extends beyond opioids. In recent years, Afghanistan has drastically expanded its production of methamphetamine. The appeal lies in the fact that meth offers producers a higher profit margin than heroin, owing to lower overhead costs and inexpensive ingredients, especially now that its chemical precursor, pseudoephedrine — a common ingredient in cold medications — is being produced locally.

And all of these stories are in the last few days.

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